12/16/16

Should You Care About Readability Tests?

Do you use WordPress for blogging?  Then you may recognize the “Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score” in its critique of your content.   

The platform gives both a percentage and a critique.  Sometimes, it may find  your content is “hard to read.”   There may be suggestions, too: things like too much use of passive voice, for instance. 



Word Press Readability Critique

So, does your post content need more work?  Maybe yes; maybe, no. 

The WordPress critique also gives two thumbs up if your post is a mere 300 words long.  For many blogs (especially those focusing on legal topics) 300 words is not enough to get the job done. 

So my first point is to take the WordPress editor with a big fat grain of salt.  It’s not all one size fits all out there. 

The goal is to do what’s right for your reader.   Be smart.  Be savvy. 
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How Readability Tests Work

This is not to say that I don’t like the idea of a readability test.  After all, its purpose is to help you connect with your readers by insuring your writing corresponds to their reading level.   

How?  Like a magician, the readability test throws several things into its top hat before pulling out its white rabbit: things like how often you use passive voice, the complexity of your sentences, the length of your paragraphs, and if you use adverbs. 

Cut and paste your content into their tool (which automatically happens in WordPress), and voila! You have a readability score. 

The Writer discusses readability tests and reports that 65 is a good score on Flesch-Kincaid for “business writing.”  And it points out that the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test is one tool; there are others, as well. 

In fact, RavenTools has compiled a list on its blog described as the “ultimate list of online content readability tests.”  If you’re curious, then go check out their collection. 
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It’s All about Your Reader

Here’s my second point.  It’s not about the readability score as much as it is about the writer understanding his or her reader. 

If you are writing a legal blog discussing new SCOTUS opinions, where your readers are fellow lawyers and legal scholars, then your writing will score differently than if you are writing a blog explaining a new SCOTUS opinion to the general public.   (Wow, look at that long sentence!)

You aren’t writing for yourself.  You’re writing to convey a message.  If a readability test helps you to visualize and understand your reader better, then that is the best reason to use it.  IMHO.
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Have Some Fun with It

Oh, and one last thing.  Have some fun with these readability tests. Go grab some of your favorite writing and plug it into the thing. 

Say, throw some David Foster Wallace into your WordPress blog platform.  What pops up in the critique?  

Or try Ernest Hemingway, Nora Ephron, Truman Capote, or James Baldwin.   See how they score (and think about their intended readers).   



11/25/16

Disc Binding for NaNoWriMo (and Lots More Stuff)

I am writing a very (VERY) bad thriller for National Novel Writing Month this year.  It's horrible.  It's terrible.  It's a hoot, so much fun!  I do not worry about intended readers, niches, clients, or editors because it's just for me.  

I'm also excited to report I will succeed in meeting my NaNoWriMo goal this year.  Which feels great.

Part of the fun has been handwriting parts of the book.  Most of the early word count is in cursive, words in black ink as I tested out various pens.  And paper.  It's amazing how varied paper quality can be!  

I've also dictated sections of this tome as well as running to my keyboard for a good chunk of the word count.  

Which means I've got a mess.  Chapters all over the place, on all sorts of stuff.  Add to that my maps, diagrams, flow charts -- things I want to keep with this thing when I go back to edit it.  

(Or at least read the whole thing from start to finish.  I'm telling you, it's BAD.  There's a tsunami, for one thing.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. ) 





Organizing My NaNoWriMo Draft and Resources


I've got chapters in spiral notebooks; in cheap DollarTree composition books; on college ruled loose leaf paper.  I've also got chunks of the book in printed pages from times I opted to dictate or sit there and type at the keyboard.

Then there are all the research things.  Maps, diagrams, flow charts, and more that I created to help me keep my various violent sub-plots organized.  As well as pretty images stored in Padlet and Pinterest and Evernote.

Where to keep all this stuff?  How to compile all my papers into a final first draft, in proper page order?  

My solution will not be an old-school three-ring binder.  Thought about it, but nope.

5 Reasons to Use Disc Binders


I will be using a disc binding process.  First, this be much more fun, especially creating my "book covers" and my fake accolades on the back (I'm imagining them now:  Mark Twain couldn't put my book down, Ian Fleming reports that my thriller is so real, it's scary, ...).

Bigger reason:  I can insert and remove pages as easily, and probably faster, than a metal ring binder. 

Best reason:  with a disc binding system, all sorts of papers can be held together and if you choose to do so, you can flip them together like a spiral notebook, and lay the whole thing flat down on its side, there on the table.  This cannot be done with a ring binder, as you know.

Maybe it's because I am left-handed, but it's a great advantage to me, the ability to have the draft lay flat on the table, and the ease with which I can flip it around.  

Another plus, as SeaLemon points out in her great instructional video below, I can choose to put those discs at the top or on the side.  My decision.

Uses for Disc Binders: More Than NaNoWriMo Drafts


I'm sharing this not only because other NaNoWriMo folk might like the idea, but because I think disc binding has lots more uses. 

I'm already thinking of all my recipe stuff that I've shoved into backs of cookbooks, index card boxes, etc.  And then there are all those notes-to-self I make and need to gather:  quotes and cool vocabulary in books that I'm reading, ideas for things, you know what I mean.

Am I the only one who finds stuff they have to KEEP in every Alexander McCall Smith book they read?  I just finished the latest in the Precious Ramotse series (the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) and there's so much wisdom in there.  Wow.  

You may find this a fun alternative to a ring binder, too. 

SeaLemon's Instructional Video on Disc Binding